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Reactions to Boeing CEO’s departure reflect relief

Dennis Muilenburg at hearing
Relatives of those killed in 737 MAX accidents hold up pictures of their loved ones as Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg, at lower left, prepares to testify before a Senate hearing on Oct. 29. (C-SPAN Video)

In the wake of Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg’s ouster, lawmakers and union leaders said they hoped the leadership change would help the aerospace giant deal with the repercussions of two catastrophically fatal accidents involving 737 MAX airplanes and win back the public’s confidence.

Some said the departure was long overdue.

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What brought down Boeing’s CEO, and what’s next?

Boeing CEO in training jet
Boeing test pilot Steve “Bull” Schmidt points out features in the cockpit of a prototype T-X training jet to Dennis Muilenburg, Boeing’s then-CEO, during a 2017 tryout. (Boeing Photo)

Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg’s departure sends a message that the troubled company is going back to basics. But in this case, the basics have less to do with nuts and bolts, and more to do with information.

Information technology rather than flawed hardware has been at the root of Boeing’s most recent troubles — including the problematic automated control system that’s thought to have caused two catastrophic 737 MAX accidents.

Although the roots of that problem predate Muilenburg’s ascension to the CEO role in 2015, Boeing’s board of directors had clearly lost patience with the way he handled efforts to recover from the crisis. That has to do with information technology, as well as plain old information.

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Boeing CEO rebuffs idea of resigning over 737 MAX

Dennis Muilenburg
Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg takes questions at a news conference in Chicago. (AP via YouTube)

Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg stuck to his positions on the safety of the 737 MAX airplane today during a contentious annual shareholder meeting and news conference in Chicago.

Muilenburg took questions in a face-to-face public forum for the first time since last month’s grounding of the 737 MAX due to concerns raised by two catastrophically fatal crashes last October and this March.

At one point, a reporter asked Muilenburg whether he’d resign.

“My clear intent is to continue to lead on the front of safety and quality and integrity,” he replied. “That’s who we are as a company.”

Muilenburg said that he’s been talking with factory workers in Renton, Wash., and with Boeing test pilots over the past few weeks.

“To the core of our people, they care about this business and the safety of our airplanes,” he said. “That’s what I’m focused on.”

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Boeing CEO would ‘absolutely’ go to Mars

Innovation panel
CNBC’s Becky Quick, JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon and AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson look on as Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg talks about his Mars ambitions. (CNBC / BRT via YouTube)

Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg often says that the first person to set foot on Mars will get there on a Boeing-built rocket, but at today’s Business Roundtable CEO Innovation Summit, he made it personal.

“Would you go?” CNBC anchor Becky Quick, the moderator for today’s panel on trends in American innovation, asked Muilenburg.

“I would,” the CEO answered.

“Really?” Quick said.

“Absolutely,” Muilenburg said.

Muilenburg made repeated reference to spaceflight and Boeing’s plans to participate in missions to the moon and Mars in the context of the company’s farthest-flung frontiers for innovation.

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Boeing reports financial pluses (and a few minuses)

Dennis Muilenburg
Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg says the supply chain for 737 jet production is returning to a healthy condition. (Boeing Photo)

Boeing’s third-quarter financial results exceeded expectations, leading the company to raise its outlook for the full year — and leading investors to bid up Boeing’s share price.

Adjusted earnings per share amounted to $3.58, which was nearly 4 percent higher than the Zacks Consensus Estimate and 37 percent higher than the year-ago figures. Total revenue was $25.1 billion, 4 percent higher than last year’s third quarter.

Boeing updated its guidance for 2018, raising its revenue projection by $1 billion to the range of $98 billion to $100 billion. Projected earnings per share got a similar boost, rising 60 cents to the range of $14.90 to $15.10.

“With growing markets and opportunities ahead, our team remains intensely focused on growth, innovation and accelerating productivity improvement to fuel our investments in the future,” Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg said today during a conference call with reporters and analysts.

On the plus side, Boeing pointed to higher-than-expected margins on 787 Dreamliner jet sales and strong operating performance on commercial aircraft production programs. The company also scored a hat trick for defense contracts, winning the Air Force’s go-ahead to build T-X training jets and MH-139 helicopters, as well as the Navy’s nod for MQ-25 drone tankers.

Boeing took a $691 million charge to cover investments related to those contracts, which was partially offset by the $412 million benefit of a tax audit settlement.

There was also a $176 million charge related to delays in delivering the Air Force’s KC-46 tanker. Muilenburg said the first deliveries were now on track for the fourth quarter, reiterating a schedule he laid out earlier this month at the GeekWire Summit. Boeing has absorbed more than $3 billion in cost overruns on the fixed-price KC-46 contract.

Muilenburg said Boeing was making progress on supply-chain snags that resulted in a logjam of unfinished 737 jets at its Renton factory this summer. “We’re continuing to ramp up on our recovery plan,” he said.

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Watch Boeing’s CEO fly in a training jet

Boeing CEO in training jet
Boeing test pilot Steve “Bull” Schmidt points out features in the cockpit of a prototype T-X training jet to Dennis Muilenburg, Boeing’s CEO, president and chairman, (Boeing Photo)

One of the things I learned about Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg is that he loves to fly the aircraft his company makes, even when they’re high-performance military jets.

Take the next-generation T-X training jets, for instance: Last week, Boeing won a $9.2 billion contract to provide hundreds of the planes, plus simulators and services, to the Air Force. The first deliveries aren’t due until 2023, but Muilenburg has already been in the cockpit of a T-X prototype — even though he’s an engineer and a manager, not a pilot.

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Boeing CEO foresees aerospace traffic system

Alan Boyle and Dennis Muilenburg
GeekWire’s Alan Boyle listens to Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg during a fireside chat at the GeekWire Summit in Seattle. (Photo by Dan DeLong for GeekWire)

A decade from now, Boeing will still be primarily known as an airplane company, the company’s CEO says. But some of the things we’ll call airplanes might be what we’d call rocket ships today. And whatever you call them, Boeing will make them.

That’s the vision laid out today at the GeekWire Summit by Dennis Muilenburg, Boeing’s CEO, president and chairman. Rather than seeing a sharp division between the world of atmospheric flight and the world of rocket launches, Muilenburg sees a continuum that stretches from personal-sized air taxis to traditional aircraft to hypersonic transports to a whole family of Boeing-built commercial spacecraft.

“Within a decade, you’re going to see low-Earth-orbit space travel become much more commonplace,” he told me. “Not only going to the International Space Station, as we will today, but also other destinations in space. Space tourism, space factories … that whole ecosystem is evolving, and we’ll be deeply involved in the transportation system that will enable access.”

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How Boeing CEO plants seeds of tomorrow’s tech

Dennis Muilenburg
Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg grew up on a farm in Iowa. (Boeing Photo)

Dennis Muilenburg is leading Boeing into a second century of innovation with dreams of hypersonic flight, self-flying planes and journeys to Mars. But to lead the way, the 102-year-old company’s CEO, chairman and president turns to the values he learned from his dad growing up on a farm in northwest Iowa.

“He was never a big business executive, but at his core he taught me about integrity, the value of hard work, the fundamentals,” Muilenburg, 54, recalled during a recent conference on innovation. “And even in a big business, those work.”

Boeing certainly qualifies as a big business, and since Muilenburg took on the top post in 2015, the company’s ambitions have become even bigger.

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Boeing CEO is bullish on business in Earth orbit

Dennis Muilenburg
Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg speaks at Northwestern University, with a model of NASA’s Space Launch System rocket standing in front of him. (Boeing via Facebook)

Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg predicts that the number of space destinations will grow from one — the International Space Station — to 10 or 12 over the next couple of decades, creating an “economically viable marketplace” in Earth orbit.

And he sees Boeing being in the thick of it.

Tonight Muilenburg sketched out a vision of space commerce and exploration that extended from low Earth orbit to Mars and beyond. The occasion was the 34th Annual Patterson Transportation Lecture, delivered at the Northwestern University Transportation Center near Boeing’s headquarters in Chicago.

Muilenburg repeated his controversial pledge that NASA’s heavy-lift Space Launch System, which has Boeing as one of its lead contractors, will be the first rocket to send humans to Mars. (SpaceX and its fans might beg to differ on that point.)

But it was his vision for a commercial transportation system in low Earth orbit that showed how many of Boeing’s interests — ranging from airplane and satellite manufacturing to its work on the Phantom Express space plane and CST-100 Starliner space taxi — come together on the final frontier.

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@BoeingCEO gets ready for Twitter takeoff

Dennis Muilenburg Twitter profile
Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg is due to post his first tweet this week. (Boeing via Twitter)

Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg’s corporate Twitter account has lain fallow like an Iowa farm field ever since he took over the top post in mid-2015, but now it’s time for @BoeingCEO to sing out.

Muilenburg, who also serves as Boeing’s chairman and president, will make his Twitter debut on Jan. 31 with the announcement of the company’s fourth-quarter financial results for 2017 and Boeing’s guidance for business in 2018.

“This new communications approach for our CEO will provide an effective platform for sharing company news and industry insight,” Phil Musser, Boeing senior vice president of communications, said today in a news release. “It also will help us highlight the inspirational, innovative work of our people, and better connect with customers, stakeholders and aerospace enthusiasts — where the conversations are taking place.”

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